Why bother with e-portfolios?
E-portfolios are easy-to-access ‘”stories of learning” that can promote active learning, motivate students, inspire technology integration, and showcase “benchmark” performances. In addition, they encourage feedback and discussions about performance and growth that can be beneficial to students, teachers, parents, educators, and future employers. However, an e-portfolio’s true benefits cannot be realized without thoughtful planning and preparation of staff and students that will be involved in the e-portfolio process, which includes:
- Gathering and identifying artifacts that best represent new learning
- Posting and sharing artifacts in the online environment
- Articulating new knowledge, skills, and disposition
- Determining future learning goals for the 21st Century learner
Of all the theories that support portfolios, Constructivism, which emphasizes the process of learning, embraces that concept in most every way. Students must reflect on their past accomplishments, what they now know and understand, and then determine the direction they want to take in the future. If this is done over time, learning will become more meaningful as students become self-reflective, self-confident, lifelong learners. In addition, they will have a record (or documentation) of personal development to share with others, including teachers, family, friends, university admissions, or future employers anytime, anywhere. If e-portfolios are implemented properly, students will demonstrate educational achievement during and after their formal education concludes.
What’s your vision for what an e-portfolio should be?
With this information in mind, think about which of these definitions relates to your vision, or purpose, of what an e-portfolio should be:
- …a purposeful, online collection of student work, designed to encourage reflective thinking and self-directed learning (Bower, Rolheiser & Stevahn).
- …a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting content, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection (Helen Barrett, http://electronicportfolios.com/).
- …an authentic assessment practice
- …an end-of-year summative evaluation
- …a collection of student work that represents a sampling of the achievements of that student (Anderson & Bachor)
- …the process of reflection that prompts active learning and ensures each student is a prime stakeholder in their education (Kish, et al.)
- …a way to enhance teaching and learning (Gathercoal, et al.)
- …an archive of one’s work, achievements, ideas, thoughts and feelings which reflect an individual’s intellectual, emotional, and social development.
There is no single right way to incorporate e-portfolios into the educational experience.
The trick for teachers is to identify the long-range plans, goals, and audiences for the e-portfolio’s purposeful use as well as colleagues to support the efforts. Below is a list of examples of how educators are successfully incorporating e-portfolios into the school day. In addition to using e-portfolios as a way to capture, document, and store evidence of learning, they are being used in these ways:
- …to exhibit “benchmark” performance
- …to encourage reflection
- …to celebrate learning with self, family, and friends
- …as a way to share learning between grade levels with teachers
- …for college admittance
- …for employment application
- …to motivate students and support different learning feedback
- …for reflection, planning, and setting goals
Hartnell-Young et al. (2007) Impact study of e-portfolios on learning
What role do e-portfolios play?
The e-portfolio is beneficial for learners throughout their educational experience. First, they can showcase a learner’s educational development and growth. Secondly, they can serve as a planning and goal-setting tool for future educational or work experiences. Both at the university admissions level and at the workplace level, the contents of e-portfolios can showcase a person’s character, abilities, creativity, self-assessment, organization, and more.
Learn more about the benefits of e-portfolios (pdf).
Think about it . . .
- How would you like to see students create and use their e-portfolio?
- What type of support do you have or would you like to have in the implementation of the e-portfolios?
- Do you want their template layout to be individualized or uniform? Should they be encouraged to incorporate multi-media? Should reflective journaling related to the chosen work be an expectation? Should their site move with the student from grade level to grade level?
In the next blog post, I will address these questions and others. In the meantime, please share your thoughts, concerns, and questions.
Anderson, J. O. & Bachor, D. (1998). A Canadian perspective on portfolio use in student assessment. Assessment in Education, 5(3), 353-379.
Enhancing Literacy Learning with Technology: http://www.freewebs.com/metalteam/eportfolios.htm
Why use e-Portfolios?: http://members.shaw.ca/technology/assignments/presentation/2whyuse.htm#21st%20Century
About the Author
In addition to being a wife, mother of three, and grandmother of eight, professionally Barbara Pace:
- Teaches online courses in computers & curriculum for Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
- Has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Design with an Emphasis on Technology from Indiana University
- Is the Online Design Consultant for the Nursing Department at the University of Indianapolis